Report: Consumer Protection

Cover Trouble in Toyland

TROUBLE IN TOYLAND 2020

Released by: Maryland PIRG Foundation

This year marks the 35th anniversary of our Trouble in Toyland report, which helps parents and caregivers spot toy hazards and offers advice to keep kids safer. As we approach the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents and caregivers in the United States still work from home while their kids participate in virtual learning. With siblings of all ages playing and spending more time together and parents juggling responsibilities with limited support, some dangerous toys are more difficult to supervise, and others are better left out of the home altogether.

A lot of progress has been made, but new problems are emerging

Toy safety has come a long way, thanks to years of work from consumer advocates, public health experts, elected officials and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards.

We need to advocate for stronger standards and enforcement

The government imposed an outright ban on certain high-powered rare earth magnets that was overturned in court in November 2016. The CPSC said there has been a “statistically significant increase in magnet ingestion incidents and injuries” since then. Still, parents continue to buy magnets for their children, and the CPSC estimates that thousands of children have been treated in emergency rooms because of magnets in the past decade. The CPSC should work with the industry to develop new safety standards requiring reduced strength of these high-powered magnets.

The popular Calico Critters flocked toys are animal figures covered in a thin, fuzzy material with bright accessories that make them appealing to young children. Although these toys are labeled for kids ages 3 years and older because of their small parts, CPSC regulation bans toys with small parts that are intended for use by children under 3 years of age, even if they are labeled with an age restriction by the manufacturer. "Flocked animals and other figures” are included in the list of toys intended for children under three, and the Calico Critters official website clearly describes their product as “animal figures [ ... ] made of a special flocked material that gives them an endearing quality.” The CPSC should recall these toys and their accessories as they pose a dangerous choking hazard to young kids.

We need to more effectively notify consumers of recalls

Since last year’s Trouble in Toyland report, the CPSC announced new voluntary recalls for 10 dangerous toys. We found three separate recalled toys for sale on eBay, and in two cases there were full pages of the recalled products. Our recall system should require companies to directly notify customers whenever possible if a product they’ve purchased has been recalled, both through social media and direct email notification.

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